Voice of the Industry

The challenges global companies face in the era of digitization

Tuesday 10 December 2019 09:15 CET | Editor: Oana Ifrim | Voice of the industry

Maria Pfister, Comarch: Although shared service centers have been around for some time, companies (especially global big players) still struggle with the dematerialization and unification of their processes

I have worked with market leaders in their sectors (multimedia, travel and manufacturing). Operating all over the world, they have at least three shared service centers, in Europe, North America and Asia. SSCs operate several dozen company’s subsidiaries. However, the problems that those SSCs face are different.

A multimedia leader with complex company structure

Let’s take the example of a multimedia leader. This is a company that has, for several decades, based its strategic growth on takeovers that have resulted in very complex company structure. Newly incorporated entities were not always obliged to migrate to systems used by the parent company (eg ERP), and so the shared services centers had to have very broad competencies and large teams in order to be able to handle finance responsibilities such as invoice processing and accounting, which had to be done in several different ERP systems. The company decided to solve this issue by implementing a central accounts payable tool with workflow automation through automatic extraction of data from documents using OCR technology, as well as integration with ERP systems used by the company.

Optimization was expected in the following areas:

  • Process quality improvement
  • Shortening the invoice approval process
  • Auditable and streamlined processes
  • Centralization of all AP invoices
  • Self-service functionality: all users have access to the status of their invoices
  • Improved relations with suppliers

A travel industry leader with non-uniform format for incoming invoices

Another company, a global leader in the travel industry, had two ambitious goals:

  • To implement a uniform format for inbound invoices to their internal systems. To achieve this objective, documents sent by all the company’s suppliers from more than 100 countries needed to be mapped and integrated to internal systems via an outsourced EDI platform.
  • to digitize the company’s invoicing flow, and so to replace all paper-based documents with PDF or, preferably, structured formats exchanged via a web-based portal or full EDI channel.

Having in mind its huge geographical coverage and large number of business partners, the company took a strategic decision to move the process forward step by step. The first six months of the project were designed to eliminate paper documents by moving partners to PDF/email. The company quickly decided to enable, for a specified group of suppliers, a set of fully digital channels that comprised a web-EDI portal with PO-flip feature for smaller companies and a fully integrated EDI channel for companies with bigger document traffic. The company quickly started to gain strategic advantage, noting a reduction in the number of paper invoices received. The platform helped the company achieve a further goal, that of legal compliance in e-invoicing. In this case, the company implemented an e-invoicing solution for its Italian entities (following changes to e-invoicing legal requirements in Italy at the start of 2019).

A solid partner is a must when facing numerous challenges

The challenges faced by global companies, even in e-invoicing and invoice automation, can differ greatly depending on a given company’s strategy, history, global presence, sector, and so on. However, all this can be reduced to few simple words: automation, digitization, and legal compliance. The challenge is huge, and requires wide experience in several fields (technical, global project management, legal, and more), so having an experienced partner on board may be a critical factor for success.

About Maria Pfister

Consulting Manager at Comarch, Maria has been working for seven years with market leaders from different industries to digitize processes related to financial, supply chain and master data. Currently responsible for the Western European market, she also has some experience on the APAC market. She is a fan of various sports and enjoys mountain climbing.


About Comarch

Comarch is a technological company that has been engaged in the optimisation of business processes for 25 years. The company’s portfolio includes systems for electronic data interchange (EDI). Comarch B2B Network platform provides a competitive advantage by a fast and secure data exchange with business partners. The solu­tion provides the automation of data processing throughout the supply chain, from the procurement process to logistics, invoicing and payment processing. Comarch EDI enables savings to be made and compliance with legal and ecological requirements. Among the clients who have trusted Comarch are the largest retail chains (eg METRO-NOM, Tesco, Carrefour, Leroy Merlin), FMCG companies (e.g. BIC, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oreal, Unilever), pharmaceutical companies (e.g. GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi) and the representatives of other key market sectors.


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Keywords: Maria Pfister, Comarch, e-invoicing, digitization, invoice automation, payments
Categories: Banking & Fintech | E-invoicing, SCF & E-procurement
Countries: World
This article is part of category

Banking & Fintech